The Blog

Manorbier Castle Chronicles

While the rest of Britain was icy, Easter came and went in balmy sunshine at Manorbier while restoration works progressed to degree. The 13th century dovecote, coffered with 250 pidgeon or dove cubby holes, like a mini rustic replica of the Pantheon with an open oculus in the domed roof, is clad in hessian and scaffolding.

While the rest of Britain was icy, Easter came and went in balmy sunshine at Manorbier while restoration works progressed to degree. The 13th century dovecote, coffered with 250 pidgeon or dove cubby holes, like a mini rustic replica of the Pantheon with an open oculus in the domed roof, is clad in hessian and scaffolding.

The crypt can double up as a disco if flooring can be found to fit exactly within the C.A.D.W's heritage watchdog stipulations, , who are hounding the Dame to put in a floor which is dead flat, so some drunken fool doesn't fall over. At present it is slightly uneven earth with worn flags and it would be almost impossible to fall over unless one was hog whimpering drunk. The original medieval flooring would simply have had rushes strewn over it daily, but that would be a fire hazard as the lighting has to be up floor lights.

Dame Emily threw her hands up in despair, "they might throw me in prison if I don't put in the right floor which have to be removable flag stones."

The dreaded Health and Safety have presented a whopping bill because of various fictive safety scenarios.

The smooth grassy verge on a soft incline, which children loved to roll down has had to be fenced in. Soon doubtless children wont be able to tour the ramparts lest they fall off, which would be difficult, besides childhood is all about adventure and building up confidence and taking a few risks. The ancient worn spiral stones curling up the towers may be out of bounds too, leading up to the parapet offering panoramic views along the coast, in case some suicidal case comes along.

Health and safety are spoil-sports, actually they are health Fascists that insinuate their absurd rules on our daily lives (and enjoyment of it) in an insidious and sinister way. Other castles strewn across Pembrokeshire are facing the same problems. A castle close by were painstakingly painting in the damaged medieval herring bone motif on the ceiling in the great hall; only work has come to a standstill because there are bats hanging upside down and they are a protected species.

How long before beaches are banned too, if one breaks one's neck slipping on the seaweed, do you sue Poseidon? Whether a castle or cabin, palace or pub, one is up against it with the litigious happy public, while the H and S regs provide fodder for this vile practice of suing everyone in sight. It won't be long before most people will just shop on line in the safety of their homes and take virtual tours of historic sites. Health and Safety sound the death knell for so many new ventures and the spirit of free enterprise, thereby depriving people of 1000's of jobs, at time when they are so desparately needed.

It is the same story all over the British Isles.

Amicia de Moubray has written a book, rich in anecdote and architectural history; '20th Century Castles In Britain', beautifully illustrated and well researched, in which she leaves no stone unturned, charting the craze for restoring and building castles in the last century and the eccentricities of their enlightened owners.

From the profligate expenditure of the Astors at Hever, complete with a mock medieval village, to house enormous Edwardian house parties to the extreme modernism of Corrour Lodge with shard-like towers and an Anish Kapoor in the great hall, completed in 2006, it is a book for romanticizing and fantasizing over. What is remarkable is how many castles (18 and some 40 Scotch tower houses) this era spawned, in spite of two world wars wars and crippling death duties.

In the 20th century, Scotland rediscovered its Celtic roots (eschewing the Scottish Victorian Baronial style), a trend , which paved the way to rescuing some 40 ruined tower houses, which were restored with discerning simplicity and in keeping with the ancient chthonic structures.

The Queen Mother 'saved' Castle Mey on the most northerly tip of Scotland buying it for a mere £100, in 1952.

As in Wales, thanks to 'Historic Scotland', a body which is equally stringent as CADW, imposed new rules at the end of the last century, requiring every aspect of the restoration to meet its "exacting standards of academic purity," now makes it virtually impossible to save castles or make them habitable again.

In the 21st century it does not get any better, in England, however, a farmer ingeniously found his way round the planning permission by simply cladding his grain towers linked by a brick bridge, as the towers had already been standing for five years. My only disappointment, was that the Surrey castle hidden behind hay is not illustrated.

Lord Curzon was instrumental in reviving the castle craze, acquiring both Bodiam and Tattershall in the early 2oth century. It has been suggested that the former Viceroy had megalomaniacal tendencies. Lord Curzon was also pretty licentious and propositioned my great grandmother, Dame Edith, at breakfast time, such was his libido, that it couldn't wait until after dark and the postprandial brandies.

That's enough 'chateaux en Espagne' as Fontaine would say of too much day dreaming and impractical or doomed projects.

I have been testing out soothing scented candles, which begs the question, how long before candles are banned too in public places? while aromatic camphorous moth balls have been shelved forever; if I ever see any I seize them. Why? because the chemicals can cause brain damage to babies..... supposedly, and that is only if you expose infants to mothballs and let them inhale the faint fumes and whiff of them. I, for one, love moth balls and the memories they conjor up of damask sheets, linen cupboards, the lure of the attic and the dressing up box.

The BLEND collective candle smells like the fly filler I zap the wasps with, that buzz in and lodge in the Venetian blinds; that is, unless my fat cat, pushkin gets them first. It is blended with myrtle, lemons and lime, while the new Jo Malone Battersea Rose and Rosemary, is faintly funereal, all the proceeds go to urban charity garden projects, and is one for urban dwellers, who may not have an abundance of flowers blooming. Its aromas certainly do create an illusion of a well stocked flower bed, which mine aint at present. I'm saving up for flowers, as having looked at some diminutive potted plants each £5, I worked out it would cost me about £300 to fill my beds.